Mumbai power failure: CM Uddhav Thackeray demands answers after power grid fails

Updated: 13 October, 2020 07:23 IST | Dharmendra Jore | Mumbai

The unforeseen development sent shockwaves through Mantralaya and New Delhi's Union Power Ministry. Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray demanded an explanation and asked Energy Minister Nitin Raut to commission a probe

A closed petrol pump in Charkop, Kandivli, amid the power failure on Monday. Pic/Nimesh Dave
A closed petrol pump in Charkop, Kandivli, amid the power failure on Monday. Pic/Nimesh Dave

The city's power islanding system which is supposed to prevent outages, in an unprecedented turn of events, failed for the first time since 1997, resulting in a blackout in several areas of the city and its nearby regions. The unexpected snag in the transmission grid that brings power to the city from outside, at one point, created a shortfall of 2,600 MW as opposed to the city's daily demand of 3,000 MW.

The city's much-envied power islanding system, a mechanism that guards the country's economic capital against electricity outages, failed for the first time since 1997 on Monday, resulting in prolonged blackouts that began at 10 am and lasted till night in some parts.

A shopkeeper uses a phone torch and candles at his shop in Dadar TT on Monday. Pic/Suresh Karkera
A shopkeeper uses a phone torch and candles at his shop in Dadar TT on Monday. Pic/Suresh Karkera

The unforeseen development sent shockwaves through Mantralaya and New Delhi's Union Power Ministry. Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray demanded an explanation and asked Energy Minister Nitin Raut to commission a probe. The CM, Raut, the energy department and power utility representatives were huddled in a meeting later in the day. Union power minister RK Singh said he would send a team of experts to find out the cause of the outage.

The tripping of the transmission grid that brings power from outside into the city caused the blackout. At one point, the snag created a shortfall of 2,000-2,600 MW in Mumbai where the daily consumption ranges between 2,500 and 3,000 MW and touches 3,600 MW in summers. According to Tata Power, which developed the islanding system in 1981, the mechanism could not hold an additional 900 MW load and dropped at 10.05 am.

Mumbai's other power utilities are partners in the islanding system. Apart from catering to its consumers in the north-eastern suburbs, the state-owned Mahavitaran supports islanding in the event of a shortfall against reliability charge. But nothing worked on Monday because of multiple tripping of lines and transformers that connect Mumbai with the state/national grid. Fortunately, the national grid remained unaffected.

What caused the outage?

According to the Maharashtra State Electricity Transmission Company (MSETCL), its 400 kV system at Kalwa tripped and stopped supplying power to Mumbai, Thane, Raigad and Navi Mumbai. Another 400 kV Pune-Kalwa line was under forced shutdown since Sunday for repairs.

MSETCL had also enforced an emergency shutdown for the 400-kV Kalwa-Padghe line-1 at 6.54 am on Sunday and expected it to be revived by 9.30 am. However, this, too, failed. And then the 400-kV Kalwa-Padghe-2 line carrying 633 MW tripped.

So, three of the four lines that supply power to the 400-kV station stopped working and unleashed havoc. The entire load was shifted to the Pune-Kharghar and Kharghar-Kalwa lines. The Kharghar sub-station saw frequent sparks leading to the tripping of the remaining working lines.

Meanwhile, compounding the problem further, Tata's 500MW and Adani's 250MW plants stopped working. Tata Power said it began restoration work from its three hydro units and Trombay's gas and coal units as soon as the MSETCL transmission lines were connected. Tata Power, BEST and Adani Power started restoring supply to consumers gradually noon onwards. Emergency services and vital installations were given priority.

Also Read: Mumbai power failure: Some hospitals manage patient care; others delay surgeries

What's the solution?

The failure on Monday racked up the demand for augmenting Mumbai's transmission network to bring in 50 per cent of the city's total requirement from outside sources. Tata has a thermal generation plant inside the city limits but brings in hydro and supplies from outside. Adani Power's, MSEDCL's and BEST's supplies come
from outside.

Worrisome outages in November 2010 prompted the Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission (MERC) to authorise one of the utilities to upgrade the transmission and receiving system. However, the project did not proceed as per the deadline of 2015. It remains incomplete even today despite the corporate getting several extensions. Sources said the MERC has asked another utility to take up the job.

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First Published: 13 October, 2020 07:05 IST

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